Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, has made 39 recommendations for improvement after an investigation into the force’s counter corruption unit (CCU).
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) ordered the review after it was revealed last year that guidelines on accessing data without proper consent had been breached when the CCU tried to discover more details about a journalist’s sources in relation to a newspaper story about the murder of prostitute Emma Caldwell.
In his report, Mr Penman found that CCU information-handling processes were “significantly different from national standards for source and information evaluation, and fell below the standards I would have expected”.
He found CCU safeguards for managing contact with sources were “inadequate” and criticised the handling of CCTV disc footage that led to evidence being lost.
“My examination of CCU intelligence files also raised concerns over the routine management, oversight and wider governance of CCU enquiries, including the extent to which chief officers are actively briefed and can direct on CCU matters,” he said.
The review concluded the unit had become “largely reactive” with “minimal evidence of proactive anti-corruption investigations”.
Instead, the majority of activity focused on “administrative background checks, notifiable associations and data protection offences”.
Mr Penman also highlighted concerns about the “legality, proportionality and the apparent lack of procedural fairness carried out by the CCU when dealing with police officers and members of police staff”.
“The primary concern was over a general lack of transparency and accountability within the CCU, and frustration by police officers that when they raised complaints against CCU officers, these were not taken seriously or independently investigated.”
Andrew Flanagan, chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), said: “The review will be an active participant, will be a root-and-branch one - on priorities, on capability, on culture, and on policies, protocols and processes.
“We welcome the clarity of the report and its findings, and will ensure that Police Scotland fully and swiftly address its findings and recommendations.”